La Trobe University


La Trobe University


La Trobe University




Vocabulary at University  

At university you will start to use a lot of words that are new to you. These may be words for:

  • places and courses at university (faculties, disciplines, colleges, admissions, enrolments, withdrawal, refectory, plagiarism);
  • generating an argumentative text, e.g., reporting verbs  to find out more about the use of reporting verbs and synthesising, check the Paraphrasing and Quoting section), cohesion (to find out more about cohesion in writing check 10 Common Mistakes in Student writing: Cohesion);
  • critiquing research and literature, e.g., unfounded argument, spurious results.
  • theories, and political and social movements, e.g., existentialism, post-modernism, Fisher’s Theory.
  • terminology in your area of study, e.g., for diseases and syndromes (Atherosclerosis, Hyperglycemia), for financial actions (amortisation, contingent liability), for taxation law (abatement, intangible assets).

Strategies for learning new words are important. Learn some useful strategies by working through the next few tabs. 

Make your own word list

  • Record new words which you find regularly in your reading.​
  • Put the word in a sample sentence with a definition and/or translation.​
  • Learn to pronounce them. The Free Dictionary has the facility to pronounce a word and record yourself.

Search Google for the many games and strategies for learning new vocabulary. Some are for young people, some are for people who are second language learners, some are just about medicine or health or computing, etc., some are just fun!

Use an online dictionary 

The Macquarie Dictionary and Thesaurus has:

  • annual updates of words
  • regionalism from around Australia
  • history behind some of the more interesting phrases
  • a simple search interface, and comprehensive results

You can also download the Macquarie Senior Student Dictionary app for iPhone which has up-to-date definitions, cross-reference linking and a note-taking function.

Expanding your academic vocabulary is important. Try these resources:

Learn one word, learn many forms 

For each word you learn there are often other frequently used forms. Look, for example, at the word 'analysis' from the Academic Word List.

        Other word forms of 'analysis'












You need to recognise these when spoken and be able to pronounce them correctly. Stressed syllables might change depending on the form. 

analyse (verb)         analysis (noun)       analytical (adjective)

The letters in bold font correspond to the stressed syllable. For more information on word stress see the section on Pronunciation under Speaking.

Activity 1. Nouns and adjectives

Create a noun and adjective from each of these verbs

Enter your answers in the boxes below. Select the 'check' button once you have attempted all the questions.

Verb Noun Adjective

Learn words in context

Look at the context of a new word. Often a word 'co-locates' (appears next to) other words.

Eg. "The Student Liaison Officer will take responsibility for checking the new students' accommodation details".
TAKE + responsibility + for + VERB-ing

Alternative ways of expressing the same idea are possible but may use different words.

Eg. "The Student Liaison Officer is responsible for checking the new students' accommodation details".
BE + responsible + for + VERB-ing

Verbs like “responsible for”, “revert to”, “result in”, “ring back”, etc. are called phrasal verbs. They consist of a basic verb + another word or words, prepositions or adverbs. Visit this great resource for more (many more!) examples of phrasal verbs in English:

English Club Phrasal Verbs 

Activity 2. Phrasal verbs

Choose the correct particle that fits the phrasal verb:

1. The committee brought off up down over on through out up on the issue of enrolments twice.

2. Our lecturer breaks off up down over on through out up on the difficult concepts in the notes.

3. The tutor called off up down over on through out up on me to present my ideas to the class.

4. We will cut off up down over on through out up on the section of transpiration in our paper.

5. Interest in our units on Feminism has dropped off up down over on through out up on over the past two years.

6. You need to map off up down over on through out up on your chosen career so that you enrol in the right subjects.

7. My students are still mulling off up down over on through out up on the concept of hybridisation.

8. We have to read off up down over on through out up on liberalism in the 19th century.

9. He said that he'll just run off up down over on through out up on the previous lecture first.

10. Many resources were provided to ward off up down over on through out up on the impact of the Ebola virus.

Some people believe that the Government should play a bigger role in establishing a housing policy for the homeless; many others disagree.